Book Review: The Marble Collector by Cecilia Ahern

The latest offering by prolific Irish author Cecelia Ahern follows a day in the life of thirty-something Sabrina, who discovers in her invalid father’s possessions a rare and expensive collection of playing marbles, revealing a second life and identity he had kept secret from everyone in his family. In attempting to track down some of the more expensive items which appear to be missing, Sabrina uncovers more of her father’s secrets and in turn discovers some truths regarding her own unhappiness.

Ahern’s characters and their interactions are always the strongest aspects of her novels, and this is no exception. The story of Sabrina’s father Fergus is told in flashback form, delving into his complicated family life as the middle son of seven growing up in a displaced Irish family with a scornful step-father. The kindly priest who gives him his first marbles as a small child after he has been beaten and locked in a cupboard by a sadistic teacher unwittingly kicks off a life of obsession and ultimate deception as he strives to be the man that he believes his family and wife wishes him to be.

The book includes a handful of fun side characters whose irish brogue virtually jumps from the page into your ear during their few lines of dialogue, and the care with which the author has researched the creation, styles and value of marbles is to be commended – of course being a complete neophyte in that area, people could tell me anything and I would be forced to believe it. It doesn’t quite pack the same emotional punch as earlier works P.S I Love You or If You Could See Me Now, but it’s an enjoyable and easy read, and the sadness of character of Fergus in particular will stick with the reader.

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